by Bob Lesmeister
Photos by John Krull
September 29, 2000
September 30, 2000
October 1, 2000
"For the President of the United States to stand up and speak out against gun rights organizations, to say it's your fault people are dying on the streets of America, is in itself the most anti-American expression for a President ever in the history of this country."
This telling and accurate observation expressed by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) drew thunderous cheers and applause from the crowd of 300 pro-firearms rights activists who attended the year 2000 Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) reception held at the Crystal City Marriott, Washington, DC.
This Friday night event opened the 15th annual GRPC, held Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in the heart of the District of Columbia. Co-sponsored by the Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), the GRPC was attended by a record number (well in excess of 500) of men and women. They came from all corners of this country as well as from other nations. They came not only to learn what is happening on the social and political firearms fronts, but also to voice their concerns and opinions. And they offered valuable and constructive remedies to the problems plaguing the honorable industry of firearms manufacturing and the rights of American citizens to own and bear arms.
Additional support from the following companies and organizations ensured that the GRPC was not only successful, but remained the premier gun rights conference in this hemisphere: Browning, Cannon Safe Company, Fifty Caliber Shooters Association, Heckler & Koch, Law Enforcement Alliance of America, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), MBNA America, Marathon USA, Microsoft® Gun Club, North American Arms, Smith & Wesson, Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI), Talk America Radio Network and the Washington Arms Collectors.
At the reception hosted by NSSF and SAAMI, Craig went on to praise the endeavors of active gunowners.
"We are about two weeks from ending the 106th session of Congress and, because of your efforts, no new gun control laws will have been passed," Craig observed.
He also went on to chastise the White House for its unprecedented onslaught against American gunowners. "I've had the privilege of serving my state of Idaho in Congress for 20 years, but during these past few years I have seen the gun community under attack from a single President as never before!"
He also warned the pro-gun purists not to abandon Gov. George W. Bush over the little matters, when the larger threat is personified by Al Gore. Craig reassured the crowd that Bush not only honors the Second Amendment, but believes that the right of gun ownership for law-abiding Americans is a profound right that cannot be tampered with.
Of Gore's intentions, Craig warned, "We are at a fundamental turning point in our country. If we elect Al Gore and keep a Janet Reno-style Justice Department, you and I both know the kind of assault our individual rights will be under. Not only will we continue to see a decline in law enforcement against those criminals and those individuals who illegally use guns, but we will see a fundamental assault against citizens like you who play by the rules and abide by the law."
While the enthusiastic crowd munched on sumptuous foodstuffs at the opening reception, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) took the opportunity to slip a little levity into the proceedings. He passed around photos of Gore mentally saying to himself, "Don't go off, don't go off..." while staring at gun barrels.
Cannon explained that this is the Administration's new gun safety program.
"There are some restrictive requirements for admission to the program," Cannon said. "Your IQ has to be above room temperature but below body temperature." This sort of "show-and-tell" illustrated the old adage, which is still true, that guns don't kill people. People kill people. A firearm is an inanimate object that, in and of itself, can do nothing. It's the person using the firearm who is to be congratulated or prosecuted, depending on how that gun is used.
Cannon was serious, however, when he said we are in a cultural war. The citizens who love liberty and who support the Bill of Rights are under constant attack by those who would subvert or reject our constitutionally-guaranteed rights in lieu of "political correctness." The Internet is one way for the average American to fight back and have his voice heard along with millions of others, Cannon said.
"I am a fan of the Internet because it is the greatest potential focus for freedom and expression of the people in the history of the world." He urged listeners to log on to his website, www.chriscannon.com and link to www.gunvote2000.com.
"We want desperately to give Americans a place of focus, a place where they can say, 'I care about these issues.' And it's not just you alone, or you at a local town meeting. It provides a central point for millions of you who care about the issues and it gives you a place to assert your will. I want to plead with you for two things. One, get on the Internet and make your voice heard. Two, elect the person who is most likely to advance your interests or the least likely to oppose them."
Before signing off for the evening, Rep. Cannon recalled when he first came to Washington, DC, he was an admirer of Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and that influenced his decision to get on the Judiciary Committee, which led to his being involved in the impeachment of the President. During this time he had the displeasure of daily contact with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). "Her desire to take my guns induced me to go from an occasional shooter to a passionate gunowner. Guns are the things she wants because guns are the things that keep us free."
While there were a good number of boos and hisses at the mention of Waters' name, Cannon explained, "You're lucky, I had to spend four years listening to her. When you hear her on TV, you have the ability to change channels or turn her off. I didn't have that luxury."
At the conclusion of his remarks, Cannon was presented with
the Gun Rights Legislator of the Year award by Alan M. Gottlieb,
chairman of CCRKBA.
Rep. Matthew Martinez
It's always been a mistake to fight the pro-firearms war by supporting one political party over another without taking into account the Second Amendment supporters and potential supporters within the parties. Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-CA) is one of the reasons to keep an open mind.
Martinez was the third speaker at the reception. He thanked the attendees for their pro-firearms efforts and their endeavors to keep any anti-gun legislation from passing this past year. He also emphasized that America consists of two areas, urban and rural.
It's in the rural areas, observed Martinez, where it's easiest to defend gun rights because many of the inhabitants in the country have grown up using firearms and accepting hunting as a way of life. It's in the urban areas, where guns are most often misused and where the fight to keep and bear arms is the greatest.
"In Congress, you have to remember, it's men and women from both sides of the aisle who initiate legislation that would prohibit the responsible, law-abiding individual from acquiring and using nearly every type of firearm. There were over 100 pieces of legislation that had been created in the last Congress that would have altered our already limited Second Amendment," he said. "It was through your efforts of lobbying and talking to your representatives that prevented those laws from passing."
Hypocrisy is not lost on Martinez, either. He recalled that when the Democrats controlled Congress, he had created a bill that would have required security guard companies to perform background checks through the FBI on the people they hired to wear a uniform and carry a gun. In too many cases, felons were being hired by guard companies in one state while they were wanted in other states for grievous crimes.
"Charles Schumer and his committee killed the bill even
though it would have saved lives," Martinez said. "Yet
he's the one who championed the new wave of anti-gun legislation.
This man is so idiotic that he defeats his own purpose."
To many of the guests at the reception, it was cocktail hour, but to Art Olivier, vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, it was the hour of discontent. A former mayor of Bellflower, CA, Olivier chastised both the Republicans and Democrats for passing laws that impinge on the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms.
"They outlawed 'cop-killer' bullets, that never killed a cop," he blared. "They banned 'plastic' guns that are 80% metal. They banned 'Saturday Night Specials' because they were not big enough and then banned so-called assault rifles because they are too big! We are sick and tired of losing our freedom."
According to Olivier, the only hope for Americans this election year is to elect himself and the Libertarian Presidential nominee Harry Browne to office. "Harry Browne feels that the right to keep and bear arms is not a negotiable issue. It's a God-given right."
Fortified by a continental breakfast hosted by Cannon Safes early Saturday, Sept. 30, GRPC attendees settled into the Crystal Forum for a day's worth of indispensable information and updates on all the important issues facing American gunowners and the firearms industry.
As soon as John Barnett, executive director of the SAF, called the GRPC to order, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Doc Carlson, vice president of the Washington Arms Collectors, followed by the invocation led by the Rev. Anthony Winfield, chaplain for Elmhurst Hospital, Long Island, NY.
September 29, 2000
September 30, 2000
October 1, 2000